by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado
Imagine the following scenario. Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab, the Yemini-trained, Nigerian Islamic terrorist accused of attempting to blow up Northwest Flight 253 enroute to Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day, actually succeeds in detonating the explosives sewn into his underwear, destroying the aircraft and killing 278 people on board and perhaps dozens more on the ground. Instead of a collective nationwide sigh of relief, Christmas Day becomes a day of morning in America, the shock and horror quickly giving way to anger, outrage and demands for retribution.
Reflect for awhile on the predictable reaction in this country to another such disaster. Do you suppose that political correctness and concerns for privacy would continue to trump demands for greater security, screening procedures, interrogation methods and intelligence gathering? Would we even be considering releasing the nearly 100 Yemeni men that constitute about half of the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay? I’d guess not. Why does it take a disaster or near disaster like this to remind our leaders that what we are dealing with here is a war, not a crime wave? Americans can rightly ask if their national leaders and appointees are really up to the job of protecting us from this enemy or are they just sort of learning on the job.
It seems to me that when a security breach like this occurs, where disaster is prevented only by sheer good luck, some person or persons must be held accountable. In the military community, someone clearly would and promptly. The price one pays in return for power, authority and trust, is unrelenting accountability. That’s one of the reasons why we took security so seriously in the military. Perhaps we could benefit by a greater military role in more areas of national security. Perhaps a civilian-run department of Homeland security was not such a great idea after all. In President Barack Obama’s ongoing review of what went wrong and what needs to be changed, nothing should be off the table.
It should also be clear to the president by now that the decision to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was a bad idea. So was the decision to release the six GTMO detainees to Yemen in December. Intelligence sources tell us that several key members of the leadership of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are former GTMO detainees. A characteristic of confident leaders is their willingness to change their minds when confronted by new facts and circumstances. Closing GTMO was a campaign pledge that became a rallying cry of the Bush-Cheney bashers that constitute much of Mr. Obama’s liberal base. It was a reckless promise, made without adequate consideration of what to do with the detainees who include some of the most dangerous men in the world. But Mr. Obama persists in this decision, arguing that Guantanamo Bay is a recruiting tool for terrorists. Please! How does closing a military detention facility where detainees are treated like POWs and transferring them to a civilian prison where they will be treated as common criminals change al Qaeda’s recruiting propaganda and why should we care even if it does?
Another serious mistake made by this administration was the decision to criminalize the so-called war by electing to try some of the detainees in civil courts where they are accorded all the legal rights of American citizens. This decision and the ill-considered restrictions on interrogation methods, along with the redefining of what constitutes torture will continue to put Americans at risk.
Mr. Abdulmatallab was promptly indicted by civilian authorities, whereupon he quickly “lawyered up”. His initial admissions will probably be inadmissible in a civilian court. He will, of course, continue to be regarded only as a suspect, considered innocent until proven guilty. He will be afforded an excellent legal defense team, courtesy of the taxpayers, which will undoubtedly argue that it is impossible for him to receive a fair trial in the U.S., given the sensational news coverage and the state of national emotions. Lost is the opportunity to uncover information on terrorist training methods, locations, future attack plans, etc. Thank you, Mr. President.
The plan to destroy Flight 253 and the 278 lives onboard may have failed, but make no mistake about it. The terrorists scored at least a partial victory. They demonstrated again that they can compromise our security systems which are demonstrable ineffective. They can look forward to another lengthy, well-publicized trial which will showcase another proud, unrepentant fundamentalist Islamic terrorist, providing another forum for Anti-American propaganda and a real recruiting tool for al Qaeda. CRO
copyright 2010 J.F. Kelly, Jr
J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.